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Are You Erecting Love Barriers Part Two: Coming On Too Strong

Coming on too strong can ruin a promising relationship.

Shannon was on her first date with Mark. He asked her to come over and quickly was overly aggressive sexually. She moved away. He asked her if she would accompany him the next time he went home to meet his parents in a nearby state. She was appalled.

He wanted to know if she would be his girlfriend. She has refused to answer his texts and plans no further contact with him. He can't believe she doesn't feel the same way, because he always thought if he was excited about the relationship, then the other person must also be. Wrong.

Coming on too strong is another intimacy-avoiding maneuver. Though most are not as blatant as Mark's, other versions of this defense usually develop in the initial stages of relationships. It occurs when a person may become possessive and constantly wants to be with their new partner.

They may call, constantly text, tweet, or show up any time with "special surprises." Though their intentions may be good, the result of their behaviors is to drive the other person away. Their partners may feel deprived of privacy and become turned off, because the other is being too intense, too soon.

Samantha remarked that she and Eli had exchanged 740 texts in five days. They both seemed to be wildly immersed and in love. She never dreamed she was coming on too strongly. She thought she was being accessible, encouraging, responsive, and friendly. After all, Eli was a co-participant. Was there anything wrong with this?

Some come on too strong because they seem to want to blitz their new partner. The intention may be to show how much they care, but the reality is they bury the other. They force them to be able to make them back down assertively. Many are unable to do this and can begin a co-dependent game as they just have a hard time telling the person their approach isn't appreciated.

If you are concerned about whether you are coming on too strong, you need to ask your friend whether your texting, dropping over, or desiring to get together frequently is bothersome to them; however, and it's a big "however," being this honest is difficult for many. It is awkward to perceive yourself as coming on too strong in a relationship, and many are surprised that their partner would rather not see them or be together as much as they thought. In their eagerness to establish something meaningful, they may not be reading the cues which are there.

When in doubt whether your behaviors are appreciated, develop the relationship gradually; if anything, the intensity and depth of feelings may increase as you slowly become acquainted. Many do not intend to drive someone away, but their impatience contributes to this and fosters the antithesis of what they consciously say they want. It's this impatience that can force a relationship prematurely down a road that should be gradually treaded. Seeking reassurance, a person can be suffocating and set up their own rejection.

Sean had gone out with Denise for a month. Things had progressed well, and their relationship was growing in warmth. They were physically affectionate, and this, too, was satisfying.

The next day, Denise acted very warmly to Sean. She started structuring the entire weekend with him. She wanted to make breakfast, help him clean his apartment, go to the park, fix dinner, and plan what they would be doing for the next several evenings.

He came in the next week complaining about having her around; furthermore, when they were apart, she was calling him twice a day. Though he liked her, he was not used to her constant presence. He felt trapped and awkward addressing what to do while she seized control. He realized that he needed to become assertive about her coming on so strongly, and was eventually able to do this.

Another way some come on too strong is they expose too much of their secrets and negative traits in their relationships. They share so many of their secrets, personal vulnerabilities, and fallibilities that they can frighten people away. They certainly are honest, but often too self-disclosive about things, which can have an impact on the other person. If a more solid relationship were established first, these disclosures could be accepted. You don't have to share your top secret in the first six months.

Lisa could not understand why so many promising relationships fell apart. She prided herself on being "real." When she found herself falling for someone, she would freely discuss her past. She would describe how she had tricked her boyfriend into getting married by faking a pregnancy, sold drugs, and had venereal diseases.

She explained how she had matured, but she failed to appreciate how her information was too much for most new acquaintances to handle. Just as a wolf who loses a fight will expose his neck to the victor, she was making herself too vulnerable. She tended to attract men who wanted to "save" her, and they were few and far between.

Importantly, people can fluctuate between the defenses they manifest. Those who come on too strong with one person may want the next one to cater to them. This can change from relationship to relationship. After people have been burned seeing that they came on too strong, they may be more defensive and not invest enough in the next relationship. They can then come on too weakly.

More from Gerry Heisler Ph.D.
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